Following the cancellation of Springfest 2017 on April 1, the USC community has grappled with questions around student safety and security on campus.
The concert, which was supposed to feature opening act Migos and headliner Rae Sremmurd, was stopped, and students were asked to evacuate in the middle of Migos’ set. USC Fire Safety and Emergency Planning said that least 10,000 people attended the event, and about 30 percent of those were non-USC students. According to the Department of Public Safety, overcrowding — and particularly a large influx of guest attendees — contributed to safety hazards, a problem that USC is working to solve in the future.
DPS Deputy Chief David Carlisle said the crowd was the largest he had seen in his 10 years at USC.
“The fencing has been adequate in the past, but it didn’t seem to serve its purpose this year considering there was a breach of the perimeter, meaning people were able to get over the fence and into the event,” Carlisle said.
DPS officers, Los Angeles Police Department officers, the Los Angeles Fire Department marshal and other USC security personnel were present at the concert to ensure the safety of attendees. They were tasked with tracking the number of people in the area and monitoring any injuries or potential hazards.
Leading up to Migos’ start time, the quad became more and more packed, with thousands of concertgoers vying for the best view. Soon there were reports of fainting and trampling near the stage as the crowd continued to push relentlessly forward.
Only one transport regarding a minor injury occurred, although there were other injuries reported, according to DPS.
Students agreed that the event was dangerous and should have been shut down, but they also pointed to the shortage of security personnel and the ease with which some were able to gain entry without being accompanied by a student.
“I forgot my student ID, so I was going to have one of my friends guest me in, but my friend walked in and I saw how easy it was for her to get in,” said Kayla Meyerowitz, a freshman majoring in industrial and systems engineering. “So she passed me back her ID, right in front of the security guard’s face, and I used it to get in too.”
Manny Raposo, a sophomore majoring in business administration, said that the security personnel were unable to even manage the lines at the entrance.
“I was in line for maybe half an hour, waiting and waiting, and it was moving a little bit but it was still super long,” Raposo said. “It was sometime after Migos was supposed to start, but at one point the line just kept moving and we all just started running, and before I knew it I was [inside the quad]. I didn’t have to show ID or anything.”
Emma Slagle, an undeclared freshman, said that large pockets of people not associated with the University were scattered throughout the quad.
“My friend Jasper said that someone came up to him and asked, ‘Do you even go to USC?’ He said, ‘Yeah, do you guys not?’ [and they replied] ‘No, none of us do,’” Slagle said, referring to a group of people who were from the nearby area but were unaffiliated with USC.
Bernard Taylor, a sophomore majoring in human biology, said that the USC Concerts Committee should limit these events to USC students only in the future.
“I feel like the concerts should be exclusively for USC students, with no ‘ ones,’” Taylor said. “The rowdiest people were actually the guests, so I think it should just be [students]. It will still be crazy, but at least you wouldn’t have random people around.”
Taylor also said that the volatility of the crowd made him fear for the safety of his friends.
“During a Migos song … [one of my friends] got pushed to the ground and was almost trampled,” Taylor said. “I put my arms around my friends so they wouldn’t fall and get trampled. I literally wasn’t even listening to Migos because I was so fixated on making sure my friends were alright.”
Taylor argued that responsibility for the event being shut down rests with the Concerts Committee, and that it should have anticipated the larger crowd and had better security at the event.
“You can say the crowd was crazy … but who is supposed to make sure that the crowd doesn’t get too packed?” Taylor said. “If you’re going to bring in Migos and Rae Sremmurd, you should definitely beef up security.”
Concerts Committee did not respond to request for comment.
William Regensburger, the director of USC’s Fire Safety and Emergency Planning department, said safety and security personnel were left with no choice but to cancel the event in the face of an overwhelming crowd.
“The problem was simply that far more people showed up than expected, and many of them jumped the fence and entered the Quad even though it was at capacity,” Regensburger said in an email to the blastZONE. “The Los Angeles Fire Department had a staff member there to help ensure the safety of the event, as they always do for large USC events, and he is the one who made the decision to shut the event down due to safety concerns.”
Regensburger added that another reason for the cancellation was the need to tend to those with medical issues.
“The Fire Department officer exhibited great patience in first trying to make announcements to the crowd to observe the safety protocols and not do anything to jeopardize their own or others’ safety,” Regensburger wrote. “However, a number of people then sustained minor injuries or medical problems, so that they had no choice but to stop the event and shut it down. At every USC event, the very first priority is safety, and as we had to start trying to respond to those with medical issues in this thick crowd it was clear there was no choice but to shut down.”
Carlisle said DPS, LAFD and USC Fire Safety and Emergency Planning are looking ahead to next year’s Springfest and are brainstorming better safety measures. Concrete decisions regarding next year’s security will be made by senior administrators in the future, Carlisle said.
“There has been discussion of if we have popular music groups that are selected by the students, maybe we would need a larger venue where it would be easier to control the crowd and there would be more space,” Carlisle said.
Regensburger said this year’s shutdown serves as a learning experience to prevent cancellations and safety hazards in the future.
“At this point, we are planning to get together the various departments and groups involved in event planning to debrief and identify any changes we can make for future concerts to help them be successful, but also 100 percent safe,” Regensburger wrote. “We don’t know yet what changes will be needed, but I’m sure we can find ways to mitigate the problems.”